Offbeat IT Tactics

IT leaders share some secrets of their management styles

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

James Onalfo

Photos by Asa Mathat

James Onalfo wears a three-star badge as part of his job as deputy commissioner and CIO for the New York City Police Department. “It’s like the army,” he said. “But when I have meetings with my IT staff, I want everybody participating. So I told them, ‘Let’s leave rank at the door.’” There’s a downside, though: Onalfo said he’s getting into a lot of arguments now. “Maybe I went too far,” he joked.

No Patience for Dog-and-Pony Shows

James Onalfo

William Pence, senior vice president and CTO at Napster Inc., said he often gets contacted by IT vendors that “want me to meet with 15 people.” He responds by asking for a rate sheet and giving them a written rundown of his technology needs. “We don’t have a lot of time for the traditional sales cycle,” Pence said.

Just Say No to New Ideas — at First

A boss at a previous employer left IT executive H. James Dallas sitting in a waiting room for not one, not two, not three, but four scheduled meetings. When Dallas persisted and requested a fifth meeting, the boss accepted the request within two minutes. Now, as CIO at Medtronic Inc., Dallas routinely tells IT workers “no” when they first propose ideas to him. “I want to see who has passion — who won’t give up,” he said.

Let’s Do It My Way

Barry Shuler

Barry Shuler, senior vice president of IT strategy and CTO at Marriott International Inc., said his natural style in working with end users “is more velvet two-by-four than it is carrot.” Shuler has changed that approach over the years in order to get IT projects approved. “But,” he said, “I still sometimes feel, if you could just see how you could change things my way, we could get things done.”

Getting ‘Paranoid’ About Security

Barry Shuler

Yahoo Inc. has a small, select team of IT security staffers who are embedded into each of the company’s engineering and product management groups. “We felt strongly that security can become an afterthought if it’s created as a separate organization,” Yahoo CIO Lars Rabbe said. “We thought it was important to make it part of the process, so that security becomes part of the job.” The security team’s adopted name pretty much ensures that it won’t be an afterthought: In a move perhaps more fitting for a punk rock band, the security staffers call themselves the Paranoids. 

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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